Like it or not, Schoolies is going to start this week. Whether your teen is heading to party central at the Gold Coast or somewhere "safer and quieter" few parents of a Year 12 graduate will be resting easy come Saturday.
As a veteran Schoolies mum there's a couple of things I think parents should think about ahead of their departure. First of all RELAX …. well a little bit anyway. Most teens just want to have a good time and the ones who make it to the news headlines really are in the minority.
Of course that doesn't mean you should just wave them off with a car load of friends and forget about them for the week. In the few days left these are the conversations that parents should be having with their teens:
1. Stay safe.
Urge your teen to keep their phone charged, to check in with their you and their friends regularly and to trust their instincts whether they are out at night or lazing by the pool. Feeling threatened, being scammed or robbed is not fun so they need to be aware of what is going on around them especially in crowded situations.
2. Protect yourself.
As much as we all want to pretend our children are innocent angels - it is better to be prepared than having to deal with emergency trips to the doctor or tearful "what if" phone calls. They might not be planning to behave in that way but it does happen (a lot), so talk to them about the need to use condoms - be blunt (STDs and unwanted pregnancies can have lasting consequences). This conversation applies to males and females. Think about adding a packet of condoms to their luggage.
3. Be a good friend.
Friendship dramas will always threaten to derail Schoolies fun so discuss a few scenarios and how they would deal with them. Suggest they go old school and buddy up in pairs when they go out as it is so easy to lose someone if you are in one big group. Tired teens are cranky creatures so things will get said and done that will hurt their feelings or start a row so remind them to not take things to heart. And warn them to watch out for friends who are doing it tough emotionally -some teens will be dealing with existing personal dramas and a week of over-stimulation and fatigue can be just too much for them to handle. Tell them it's o.k to get adult help if they are really worried about a friend's state of mind.
4. Give up facebook: For a week anyway.
Grandma, work mates, potential bosses and even your parents don't want to see everything you get up to at Schoolies. The worst of the worst pics have a way of ending up in the news no matter how private your settings are so try to convince them to not post anything for that one week.
5. Know your limits.
Most Qld Schoolies are not yet 18 but there's a fair chance most teens will be drinking. Even if you don't think your teen will be drinking give them some tips about safe drinking (drink plenty of water, eat well, keep track of the number of drinks and where it comes from). The fact that they are under 18 is actually a good thing, especially at the Gold Coast because almost every night there are events that are for registered school leavers only.
6. Don't ruin the fun.
Just like school there are rules that just have to be followed. There are strict rules in the hotels, on the street and on the road that are there for their own safety - break them and they might be coming home sooner than they planned.
7. Share the love.
Make sure you tell them how much you love them. Let them know you are putting your trust in their ability to make good decisions but remind them that no matter what happens you will love them and that you are just a phone call away. Of course, the actual words you use will depend on your personal views but I believe education, honesty and preparation are the keys to a happy Schoolies celebration. A word of warning - don't tackle these topics all at once. And for your own entertainment try to keep count of the number of eye rolls and "I'm not a child" comments you receive as you tackle these "boring" conversations.
Good luck and when you are missing them just remember that they'll be back soon enough with their bag of dirty washing and a desperate need for sleep.
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